A Deal in Wheat And Other Stories
But no sooner had the title been granted when there came a dislocation in the proceedings
that until then had been going forward so smoothly. Ryder called the Three Black Crows
to him at this juncture, one certain afternoon in the month of April. They were his best
agents. The plums that the "Company" had at its disposal generally went to the trio, and if
any man could "put through" a dangerous and desperate piece of work, Strokher,
Hardenberg and Ally Bazan were those men.
Of late they had been unlucky, and the affair of the contraband arms, which had ended in
failure of cataclysmic proportions, yet rankled in Ryder's memory, but he had no one else
to whom he could intrust the present proposition and he still believed Hardenberg to be
the best boss on his list.
If Paa was to be fought for, Hardenberg, backed by Strokher and Ally Bazan, was the
man of all men for the job, for it looked as though Ryder would not get the Island of Paa
without a fight after all, and nitrate beds were worth fighting for.
"You see, boys, it's this way," Ryder explained to the three as they sat around the
spavined table in the grimy back room of Ryder's "office." "It's this way. There's a
scoovy after Paa, I'm told; he says he was there before 'Rosemary,' which is a lie, and that
his Gov'ment has given him title. He's got a kind of dough-dish up Portland way and
starts for Paa as soon as ever he kin fit out. He's got no title, in course, but if he gits there
afore we do and takes possession it'll take fifty years o' lawing an' injunctioning to git
him off. So hustle is the word for you from the word 'go.' We got a good start o' the
scoovy. He can't put to sea within a week, while over yonder in Oakland Basin there's the
Idaho Lass, as good a schooner, boys, as ever wore paint, all ready but to fit her new sails
on her. Ye kin do it in less than no time. The stores will be goin' into her while ye're
workin', and within the week I expect to see the Idaho Lass showing her heels to the
Presidio. You see the point now, boys. If ye beat the scoovy--his name is Petersen, and
his boat is called the Elftruda--we're to the wind'ard of a pretty pot o' money. If he gets
away before you do--well, there's no telling; we prob'ly lose the island."
About ten days before the morning set for their departure I went over to the Oakland
Basin to see how the Three Black Crows were getting on.
Hardenberg welcomed me as my boat bumped alongside, and extending a great tarry
paw, hauled me over the rail. The schooner was a wilderness of confusion, with the sails
covering, apparently, nine-tenths of the decks, the remaining tenth encumbered by spars,
cordage, tangled rigging, chains, cables and the like, all helter-skeltered together in such
a haze of entanglements that my heart misgave me as I looked on it. Surely order would
not issue from this chaos in four days' time with only three men to speed the work.
But Hardenberg was reassuring, and little Ally Bazan, the colonial, told me they would
"snatch her shipshape in the shorter end o' two days, if so be they must."